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SailGP: King of Spain aboard with Kiwis for trophy win ahead of SailGP Cadiz

by James Rigby/NZSailGP 8 Oct 16:57 PDT
His Majesty King Felipe VI shakes hands with Peter Burling, Co-CEO and helmsman of New Zealand SailGP Team, as he presents the Juan Sebastin de Elcano Trophy to the New Zealand SailGP Team. © Bob Martin/SailGP

The New Zealand SailGP Team has made a promising start to the Spain Sail Grand Prix, winning the Juan Sebastián de Elcano Trophy on the eve of official racing in Cádiz.

The one-off commemorative race between Spain, the USA and New Zealand took place after practice racing today to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the globe.

The Kiwis led from start to finish in a dominant performance and were presented the trophy onboard their F50 Amokura by His Majesty King Felipe VI.

Co-CEO and wing trimmer Blair Tuke said: “To have the King of Spain aboard Amokura was a huge moment. I’m really proud of the whole team. It was a good milestone for the team to take our first win. It was a great race and a good confidence booster and we’re really looking forward to the weekend.”

Co-CEO and driver Peter Burling said: “It was great for us to win the Juan Sebastián de Elcano trophy today. It was really cool to get that first win under our belts as a team and claim our first trophy.

“It gives us a lot of confidence going into the weekend. There were definitely pretty tricky conditions out there but it felt like we learned a lot and to be able to execute as a group was pretty cool.”

The New Zealand SailGP Team has been building plenty of momentum over the last two events but with just three regattas remaining in SailGP Season 2, the team currently sits in sixth position out of eight.

Burling knows his team needs to start banking some points if it is to secure a place in the winner-takes-all grand finale in San Francisco.

“This is a really important weekend for the team,” Burling said.

“We have the ambition to make it into the final in San Francisco and that means we’ve got to have a good performance this weekend to keep in touch with the top three. It’s really tight at the top of the leaderboard and we’re just excited about getting out there and putting our best foot forward.”

Tuke said: “It’s a big weekend coming up here in Cádiz. It’s an important one for the team in the context of the whole season so everyone is ready to come out firing. As always it’s a very tight fleet and all teams are going well so we’re going to have to be on top of our game.”

SailGP’s road to creating a more inclusive championship reaches another milestone this weekend with six athletes now onboard all F50s for racing - resulting in the Women’s Pathway Program athletes racing for the first time in SailGP.

Erica Dawson will be onboard Amokura with the New Zealand SailGP Team in the sixth sailor position, and she is raring to race.

“It’s really cool to be amongst the first women racing in SailGP. I’m really excited for this weekend and can’t wait to race,” Dawson said.

“The team is coming along well. We’ve all been putting in a lot of hard work so it’s really cool to have won the trophy race today.”

Before practice racing, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke joined New Zealand Ambassador to Spain Nigel Fyfe at SailGP’s ‘Champions for Change’ forum where they shared the story of founding Live Ocean and their first project on racing to save the Antipodean albatross from extinction.

The Antipodean albatross is New Zealand’s most threatened albatross with estimates of 2,300 lost each year. The number one threat to them is being accidentally caught on fishing gear, especially in long line fisheries.

Burling and Tuke’s role in using the power of sport to shine a light on the plight of the Antipodean albatross has seen them become a symbol for the threats many albatrosses and seabirds face at sea.

In June the leaders of Spain and New Zealand, President Pedro Sánchez and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, declared their commitment that the two countries would work together on seabird conservation, and in particular they would develop an agreement by the time of the Spain Sail Grand Prix in Cadíz, for the better protection of the albatrosses and petrels of the Southern Ocean.

New Zealand Ambassador to Spain Nigel Fyfe today confirmed that work on the agreement is completed and will be signed in the coming weeks in Madrid.

Fyfe said: “This is a tangible commitment to ensure our fishing boats follow best practices to avoid the capture of seabirds in the southern fisheries. Our two countries will go out and work with other countries involved in that fishery to ensure those best practices are widely followed.

“This wouldn’t have happened without SailGP providing this moment of focus and without SailGP’s commitment through Champions for Change to lead by example and to invite others to seize the opportunity. It wouldn’t have happened without the commitment of Pedro Sánchez and Jacinda Ardern. And it wouldn’t have happened without the leadership and determination of Pete Burling and Blair Tuke.”

The New Zealand SailGP Team and Live Ocean also jointly developed a video to bring greater awareness to the issue which you can view here

You can watch all the action from Spain Sail Grand Prix race day 1 live on Sky Sport NZ at 3.30am NZT on Sunday morning, or catch the replay at 12.30pm.

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